Rita Howell Column

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rita Howell

Set Decorators of ‘Blind Side’ commit glaring error on school’s archway

First, a disclaimer: I make mistakes. And when I make one, it’s multiplied 6,000 times. And it is apparent to the 15,000-20,000 people who read each print edition of The Panolian. And to anyone in cyberspace who reads it posted on The Panolian’s Web site. So it is with trepidation that I embark on the following rant.

Have you seen “The Blind Side?”

Rupert and I had looked forward to seeing it on the big screen after it was released in November. But somehow we didn’t get around to visiting a movie theater until February. A cold, rainy night in February. The kind of evening you’d really rather be at home in front of your fire in your pajamas.

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But we really wanted to see it and we were afraid we’d forever miss the chance to see it big.

The movie itself did not disappoint. It was produced by Fed Ex founder Fred Smith’s Alcon film company and his daughter is one of the producers. It deserves its Academy Award nominations.

We were very familiar with the story. Rupert had read the book and we had watched Michael Oher during his four years at Ole Miss. We had seen the movie trailer numerous times.

The film seemed genuine. Even though it was filmed in Georgia, it evoked Memphis.

I’d read that the producers were intent on authenticity. Sandra Bullock, who plays the heroine Leigh Anne Tuohy, spent time in Memphis getting to know Tuohy before filming began. The film crew even went so far as to study Tuohy’s makeup drawer to get the details right.

Bullock nailed the Mid-South accent and I loved that the characters in the Tuohy home were forever sipping sweet tea in acrylic “Ole Miss” tumblers, the kind I have at home.

All the SEC coaches made cameo appearances in the movie. The real guys.

With so much attention to detail, I can’t understand why somebody didn’t catch what to me is a substantial blunder.

There’s a scene in which Michael Oher enters the campus at “Wingate Christian School,” where he has just enrolled. There he is, a youngster from the projects, entering the world of privileged white kids.

On the archway above the entrance to the school are these words: “With men this is possible. But with God all things are possible.”

Since the camera lingers on the message, I assume it’s supposed to be significant. So why didn’t they get it right?

In fairness, there’s no attribution on the “Wingate” arch. It doesn’t say “Matthew 19:26.”

The real verse, which is emblazoned on the real Briarcrest School building where the real Michael attended classes in Memphis, says, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

The contrast between what’s impossible with men and what’s possible with God seems to be played out in this story of the poor young man who, against all odds, finds love, happiness and a pro football career with a wealthy family who adopts him.

Only the contrast is lost in the film’s mangling of the verse.

I can’t see how the company spent $30 million producing the film, but nobody noticed that the verse on the archway didn’t make sense. Some set designer hired an artist to apply the letters to the concrete arch, but somehow the verse came up missing an “im.” Even after the shooting was finished and the sets taken down, couldn’t you use Photoshop to fix it?

It would be different if it were just a sign on a passing bus, but this was a sentence that was supposed to have meaning. The audience was supposed to “get it” as Michael passes beneath it. The arch is even shown in two different scenes.

The day after I saw the movie, I did a little research to confirm the error I thought I’d detected. There were 11 other nerds who didn’t have anything better to do than to pick nits with Hollywood. Two were conspiracy theorists who had determined the omission was intentional, that the filmmakers didn’t want God to get the credit. One film critic noticed it but it didn’t seem to bother her.

I concluded that I’d wasted way too much time thinking about this.

Better to look into the backstory in Matthew 19.